Babson strives to be an inclusive, intentionally diverse community, from students to faculty, staff, alumni, and external partners. But diversity is a complex issue, says Sadie Burton-Goss, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Babson. “Diversity is about race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomics,” she says. Building, supporting, and retaining a diverse community takes commitment, collaboration, and work.
As a member of the President’s Cabinet, Burton-Goss partners with campus leaders to continually advance Babson’s diversity and inclusion efforts. She examines policies, programs, and practice, such as initiating a process for responding when bias-related incidents occur that have ties to Babson. She also develops and manages internal and external relationships, helping to drive recruitment of students, faculty, and staff.
Additionally, a Diversity and Inclusion Council with members from across campus comes together every month, discussing such topics as recent issues, programs in development, and ways to help each other achieve goals. “It’s all interwoven. There’s a whole team of people who are reviewing diversity,” says Burton-Goss. “We work collaboratively to figure out where we are now, where do we want to go, and what is it going to take to get there.”
Burton-Goss says a recent initiative has been to gather diversity data, examining the student, faculty, and staff populations to better understand where more efforts are needed to advance diversity, with an aim of devising targeted, strategic plans for moving forward. For example, Babson knows it needs to improve the diversity of its faculty, she notes, and has partnered with The PhD Project and the Management Faculty of Color Association, as well as numerous other organizations, to raise its profile in historically underrepresented minority communities.
“We had to look at how we formalize external relationships in these communities. When we consistently and routinely build on these relationships and tell the Babson story, people come to know, like, and trust us. Then they are more likely to think ‘Babson’ when it is time to think about a school, a job, or being part of our faculty,” she says. “This doesn’t happen overnight. We are just now more familiar in these communities.”
Diversity is essential to Babson’s goal of educating students who are going to be global leaders, Burton-Goss affirms. “The entrepreneurial culture here demands that we work together to make that happen,” she says.
In the student community, the Glavin Office of Multicultural and International Education is the hub for diversity efforts. The mission of the multicultural program’s team, says Jamie Kendrioski, director of international services and multicultural education, is “to educate, amplify, and support students and all their different identities.”
“How can we prepare someone to create value and lead anywhere if they don’t understand that they’re wearing a set of cultural lenses that influence the way they make sense of the world?” says Kendrioski. “You have to learn and practice, and make mistakes along the way, and get out of your comfort zone, and expand your global mindset. If we can create those opportunities, I think we’re doing a much better job of preparing students to become entrepreneurial leaders.”
Like Burton-Goss, Kendrioski notes that diversity efforts do not come out of one office. His team collaborates with people across the campus and includes Alana Anderson, senior assistant director, multicultural programs, and Lauryn McNair, coordinator, multicultural and LGBTQ+ programs. (McNair uses the pronouns she, her, hers. “Pronouns are super important to me, because it’s how you tell people how you want to be addressed,” she says.) The team’s impact is vast, from embedding inclusion content into the First-Year Seminar and freshman orientation to helping choose diversity leadership scholars to designing diversity and inclusion educational programs to providing LGBTQ+ Safe Zone training to promoting student-driven events to offering crisis support and more.
But perhaps some of the most important assistance that the Glavin team provides for students is advice coupled with friendship. “We work really hard to develop and keep relationships with students,” says Kendrioski. “In many ways, we take our lead from the students and ask them to tell us what they need.”
Students who have a grievance know how to gain access to campus leaders and others, adds Alana Anderson, but sometimes they need help crafting their message. “It’s never telling students that they can’t do something. Or that they shouldn’t be talking to people,” she says. “It is helping them figure out what’s the best way to get their message across so that change will happen. And setting realistic expectations, and a recognition that sometimes change is slow. Sometimes it’s slow because people don’t want to do anything. But sometimes it’s slow because people are trying to figure out the right way to do it.”
Students often drop in to visit the Glavin team, whether to talk about an idea for a program or to share an uncomfortable experience, and the team encourages this. They want to be sounding boards, resources, and advocates for students. “If you’re not authentic, students will see right through that,” Anderson says. “Being honest with them and not telling them what they want to hear all the time, but having a rapport where they know I am an advocate for them, is really important.”
In its work, the Glavin team has found the Babson community to be accepting and eager to participate. “It’s not an uphill battle,” says Lauryn McNair. “I don’t have to justify why we have to do this work. That’s really wonderful. You’re not arguing about why you should do this but how you can do this.”
People don’t have to be part of an identity to care about it or be more inclusive, notes McNair. “We all have intersecting identities. Diversity inclusion is culture, race, socioeconomics, ability, gender, sexuality—there are a lot of different identities,” she says. “Diversity makes life richer. To know about different people and experience their way of life, even if it isn’t yours, the acknowledgment of their humanity and that they move through the world—that knowledge is really powerful.”—Donna Coco